Ideas and Innovations --- Inventors club of Georgia

Ideas, innovations and creation

People who changes world



Events that changed the world

The most important inventions of the civilization


Diagram of a Ming dynasty mariner's compass

The earliest reference to magnetism in Chinese literature is found in a 4th century BC book called Book of the Devil Valley Master "The lodestone makes iron come or it attracts it."

The earliest reference to a magnetic device used as a "direction finder" is in a Song Dynasty book dated to AD 1040-44. Here there is a description of an iron "south-pointing fish" floating in a bowl of water, aligning itself to the south. The device is recommended as a means of orientation "in the obscurity of the night. However, the first suspended magnetic needle compass was written of by Shen Kuo in his book of AD 1088.


Handgun from the Yuan dynasty, circa 1300s.

The prevailing academic consensus is that gunpowder was discovered in the 9th century by Chinese alchemists searching for an elixir of immortality. By the time the Song Dynasty treatise, Wujing Zongyao, was written by Zeng Gongliang and Yang Weide in AD 1044, the various Chinese formulas for gunpowder held levels of nitrate in the range of 27% to 50%. By the end of the 12th century, Chinese formulas of gunpowder had a level of nitrate capable of bursting through cast iron metal containers, in the form of the earliest hollow, gunpowder-filled grenade bombs.


Hemp wrapping paper, China, circa 100 BC

Papermaking has traditionally been traced to China about AD 105, when Cai Lun, an official attached to the Imperial court during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-AD 220), created a sheet of paper using mulberry and other bast fibres along with fishnets, old rags, and hemp waste. However a recent archaeological discovery has been reported from near Dunhuang of paper with writing on it dating to 8 BC.

While paper used for wrapping and padding was used in China since the 2nd century BC, paper used as a writing medium only became widespread by the 3rd century.By the 6th century in China, sheets of paper were beginning to be used for toilet paper as well. During the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) paper was folded and sewn into square bags to preserve the flavor of tea. The Song Dynasty (AD 960–1279) that followed was the first government to issue paper currency.


The Chinese invention of Woodblock printing, at some point before the first dated book in 868 (the Diamond Sutra), produced the world's first print culture. According to A. Hyatt Mayor, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "it was the Chinese who really discovered the means of communication that was to dominate until our age.Woodblock printing was better suited to Chinese characters than movable type, which the Chinese also invented, but which did not replace woodblock printing. Western printing presses, although introduced in the 16th century, were not widely used in China until the 19th century. China, along with Korea, was one of the last countries to adopt them.

The intricate frontispiece of the Diamond Sutra from Tang Dynasty China, AD 868 (British Museum)

Woodblock printing for textiles, on the other hand, preceded text printing by centuries in all cultures, and is first found in China at around 220, then Egypt in the 4th century, and reached Europe by the 14th century or before, via the Islamic world, and by around 1400 was being used on paper for old master prints and playing cards.

Printing in China was further advanced by the 11th century, as it was written by the Song Dynasty scientist and statesman Shen Kuo (1031–1095) that the common artisan Bi Sheng (990-1051) invented ceramic movable type printing.Then there were those such as Wang Zhen (fl. 1290-1333) and Hua Sui (1439–1513), who invented respectively wooden and metal movable type printing. Movable type printing was a tedious process if one were to assemble thousands of individual characters for the printing of simply one or a few books, but if used for printing thousands of books, the process was efficient and rapid enough to be successful and highly employed. Indeed, there were many cities in China where movable type printing, in wooden and metal form, was adopted by the enterprises of wealthy local families or large private industries. The Qing Dynasty court sponsored enormous printing projects using woodblock movable type printing during the 18th century. Although superseded by western printing techniques, woodblock movable type printing remains in use in isolated communities in China.